By Sharon McCart
A United Methodist Disability Ministries Consultation was held August 16-18, 2019 at the UCCP Shalom Center in Manila, Philippines. This was the first Consultation on this topic in the 121 years of the Philippines Central Conference!
Participants were invited based on their leadership positions in the Central Conference and represented the Board of Women’s Work, the Board of Church and Society, educators at every level from preschool up through Harris Memorial College and Union Theological Seminary, and five United Methodist Youth Fellowship leaders. Also attending were several pastors and others with disabilities who brought needed first-hand experiences to the table.
Ira Q. Largoza and Genie C. Chavez of Philippine Coordinating Center for Inclusive Development, Inc. led the attendees through a series of exercises designed to raise awareness, recognize barriers and name solutions to inclusion of people with disabilities. This included statistics and facts, what inclusion means for the Church and community, why language matters, and ways to break down the barriers to inclusion. There was a lively debate comparing the Compassion, Medical, Social, and Justice-based Models of regarding disability, as well as active learning activities, fun ice breakers, and a game called (in English) “Crocodiles in the River” that showed that finding the ways to break down barriers are much easier with collaboration and cooperation. The final exercise was goal-setting, with each group generating achievable, effective goals leading to full inclusion of people with disabilities in United Methodist Churches! The Consultation ended with great energy and a determination to hold another event in 2020 or 2021.
The Consultation was planned by a team from the Board of Women’s Work partnering with the Board of Church and Society. In addition to the competent leadership of Ira and Genie, there was a keynote speech by Deaconess Sharon McCart, former chair and current vice chair of the DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church. Deaconess Zarla Raguindin facilitated discussions and shared her wealth of knowledge of Universal Design. Thanks also go to Paul Edward N. Muego, who wrote the initial proposal for this consultation, and Rev. Genesis Antonio, Board of Church and Society, as well as all the members of the planning team and other staff members.